“Get Rockin’ before the pieces start Poppin’” is the slogan for a game created by Milton Bradley in the 1970’s called “Perfection.” The rules are simple—push the blue plastic top down, turn the dial for the timer and get all the assorted yellow shapes into their proper places before the board pops and the shapes explode. Whether quick handed enough to beat the game or not, the anxiety level it generates is similar to that of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The tension of the time constraint coupled with finding the assigned spaces for all of the various shapes makes your heart beat a bit faster. This is how I felt coming into my third residency; truth be told, this is how I feel much of the time. I had some sense of where I was going physically, though mentally I was trying to process and balance the complexities of my education, my profession and my personal life. Then it occurred to me it didn’t even matter. I just need to remember to focus, breathe, be patient and not think about everything at one time.
It is difficult to summarize some of the most important moments in the life of my art thus far. I feel by attempting to explain it I may not be able to convey the enormity of the experience properly in a literary manner. Up to this point, I have existed as a decagon peg disguised as a square peg, trying to fit in a round hole. What I love about the residency is the realization, the true affirmation that we are all different shapes trying to fit in various places; the program provides me with the knowledge to find the places where my shapes fit. It is an interesting experience to know so many things were wrong: my website, the images of my work, my business cards, my resume—and that was just in Professional Development. These things are all fixable; they become other shapes.
Critical Theory is a complete mental fractal which left my brain reeling. The very structural formations and basic foundations of the Western World are all based on a historically perpetuating patriarchal manipulation which impacts all genders and races. It’s not only mind boggling, but out-and-out-wrong. It makes me feel trapped. I can never get used to these ideas. The unavoidable oppression of this institution in some way, shape or form is frightening. My time is ticking.
The critiques offered me insight into the various types of work I am doing. The responses were intellectual, funny, entertaining and extremely helpful. Even though no one else had lamps quite like mine, they appreciated the work, which was an honor. The resulting suggestions revolved around the sociological interaction relative to my work, the way I utilize language, the variation and range of medium, the issues of context and presentation, ideas about my aesthetic development as well as suggestions for deeper research. I am excited to introduce and integrate a more refined sociological perspective to the work I am engaging in with the research I will be conducting this semester, as well as for my thesis. These shapes are nice, new and shiny plastic yellow; I can practice fitting them into my work.
When I got home I rested, sold some work and then it snowed bestowing upon me a secret vacation that everyone knew about. Once the blizzard was over, I culled out the richness contained within my blank book (not so blank anymore). I pulled out all the suggestions of the artists I should study, the things I can read and images to look at. There are many, so many I made a list, a long rectangular list. I will compare it to my existing lexicon. Some of them I recognized right away like Beth Campbell, Mike Kelley and David Robbins to name a few. Even funnier, the person who suggested Beth Campbell did not know she is my mentor and had also been for that semester.
During the residency, I taught the blog workshop, not exactly a popular offering. I later found out most of Group One had gone to see a typesetter instead. My patience was definitely tested in this environment by a challenging student. I just reminded myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity and how long I have waited for these moments in my life. I recalled my own insecurity in a similar situation and was able to help her…without ripping my hair out. She left happy and felt heard. I left feeling like I am a good teacher.
These experiences of this residency brought me closer to the people in my group, as well as to the program. Every so often you push the top down, turn the timer and fit all of the pieces before the board explodes. In those moments, it is “Perfection.” Those moments are so few and far between. The failures are far more frequent than the successes. I am being given the opportunity to work with people I revere and speak with people I read about. I strive to become like them in my own context. In this residency, I pushed the top down. I fit all the pieces and when it exploded, I knew I had to start all over—and it feels amazing.